Hearse to You, Witchery
CoC interviews Sharlee D'Angelo of Witchery
by: Aaron McKay
You gotta admit, there are some bands you just like unquestionably. Well, this Swedish five piece outfit is one of them for me. Thundering bass and vicious riffs with gravelly, raspy vocals -- I had little choice in the matter; these morbidly amusing gents pulled me in like a traveling black hole from Hell. Complete with a twisted comedic sense, Witchery unleashed _Symphony for the Devil_ (get it? Think Rolling Stones) onto a unsuspecting fanbase. I like it, but then again there is little here not to like. Talk about your contorted humor -- "Hearse of the Pharaohs"?

"Yea, it is kinda like a tradition that we have", begins the ever-talented bassist. Sharlee continues, "We've always done the wordplay thing. Why not have a little something there, ya know? The people who react to it are kind of, ya know, "our people"", Mr. D'Angelo spells it out for me very clearly.

What! Two instrumentals on _Symphony for the Devil_? "The thing was, the first one that came about, "Bone Mill", that was one of the songs that basically wrote itself with Martin [Axe], who was playing some kind of drum pattern, and then Jensen [guitar] came up with the riff to it", my interviewee conveys. ""Hearse of the Pharaohs" was not originally intended to be an instrumental track", Sharlee continues, "but before we came around to writing the lyrics for it, I called Hank [Sherman, of Mercyful Fate fame] and asked him if he wanted to come over to the studio and gang out. He said yea, and I'm like could you bring your guitar?" <we laugh> Sharlee goes on, "People think having Hank on the album was my idea, but it was really Jensen's idea. Also, for Toxine [vocals], Hank has always been his favorite guitar player -- all categories."

And after Mr. Sherman went wild over the whole thing? Sharlee told me, "Well, then there was really no room for vocals [on "Hearse of the Pharaohs"]. Why not just let it be an instrumental track? It makes for a nice change of pace [on the album]".

Originally intended only for release as bonus tracks for vinyl, but the European label (Music for Nations) for Witchery wanted to include them; Witchery agreed, but they wanted those two songs for the US version as well. I'll have to confess something here, the bonus tracks on _Symphony for the Devil_ are out of this world. How did they come about? Weren't "Enshrined" (killer bass opening, by the way) and "The One Within" old Satanic Slaughter songs?

"Exactly", Mr. D'Angelo confirms. "All the other guys were on that [self-titled] album except for Martin, of course. This was before my time and I always -loved- that album -- I think it is one of the most overlooked pieces of black metal ever. It was a treat for me to come in and do my part on some of those songs." I'll tell ya folks, I honestly believe that the -only- thing SS was missing was the cavernous bass sounds of Sharlee D'Angelo!

There is -always- one song, at least, on a release that tells you, hell yea -- this is what I like! Well, "Omen" was that track for me. I asked for Sharlee's thoughts on that piece. "In this instance here, I think great minds think alike -- it is my favorite, too", confesses the bassist. "You know what it is with that song? Instantly, when we were playing it, and especially when we got it recorded and we could sit down and listen to it, the image that came up in my head was like driving down the highway in the dark and you only have the light from the dashboard. It is a great driving song." Not only that, Sharlee, my friend, but your bass is kickin' ass on that track, too, brother!

Jensen once alluded to Martin Axe's age in an interview I read. I asked Mr. D'Angelo how old the drummer was. "He's 21", comes the reply. Wow! He's got a real handle on his instrument. "Especially "Called for by Death", Sharlee elaborates. "That song is a very, very good example of how Martin works. It's got a bit of a Judas Priest feel to it. Ya know, the -old- Seventies type Judas Priest". Do I? _Rocka Rolla_ (and its cover) is beyond explanation. Ultimately Mr. D'Angelo says, "He's so young and he -knows- his metal history!"

Some guitarists are seemingly incapable of laying down a good solo, and Sharlee and I talked a little bit about that, but such is -not- the case with the soloist supreme, Richard Corpse -- right, Mr. D'Angelo?

"He put so much more effort into the leads this time and really thought it through. He came up with some great stuff", Witchery's bassist advises me. "Solos are an expression thing and if you aren't in the mood, you aren't going to come up with anything good. This is [Richard's] best lead work to date, I think." I agree. Some pretty concentrated leads on _Symphony for the Devil_; very inspired.

Vocals play such a huge part in music, I believe. From the bowels of the indecipherable like most on any Abyss track to using vocals as an instrument as John Tardy did with early Obituary releases, how it is sung matters. So, that said, what about Toxine?

"With the type of vocals, sometimes with all the screaming [with other bands] it is just there to make the music more extreme", comes my answer. "We come from the same school, I guess. With Toxine, he's got impeccable timing and, in that sense, rhythm and all that expression". So true. Sharlee continues, "It is not only what you sing, but it's also the inhales and the exhales and their rhythmical context -- what you do with it. With this album, [Toxine] is trying different things, more lows and more highs. I think he is just starting to sound more and more evil." Even though I agree, especially with Toxine's efforts on this effort, I'd -love- to hear it when he masters it -- and I think he's almost there...

What about you, Sharlee? Tell us about your style and emphasis. He replies, "I don't really care that much if I can be heard or not as an individual player. I'm more concentrated on whether I add something to the music." Sharlee goes on. "Ian Hill [Judas Priest] is a very, very big inspiration to me. The way he is also very simple and the way that he works with the drums."

Intermittently I am permitted the rare opportunity to say the current album from a particular band has exceeded the previous one; _Symphony for the Devil_ has provided that opening. An uncommon treat for me to have a sensible conversation with someone so knowledgeable as the good-natured Sharlee D'Angelo. An album well worth your time and consideration. Momentous thanks for the enlightening talk, Sharlee. And permit me to say that I am so very glad you guys write music and are into metal instead of long fairy tales, 'cause they have a tendency to DRAGON... Get it?!

(article submitted 14/1/2002)

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